This discussion was first published as part of the 2015 Red List update. At the time a decision regarding its status was pended, but to enable potential reassessment of this species as part of the 2017 Red List update this post remained open and the date of posting was updated.
Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura is a localised sedentary resident in rocky arid habitats in Iberia and NW Africa. It is currently listed as Least Concern, because when last assessed it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria.
Globally, it has an extremely large range (>1.3 million km2), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criteria (B and D2). Its population size is poorly known, but there are an estimated 13,000–14,000 mature individuals in Europe (BirdLife International 2015), and as Europe contains c. 20% of the global range, a very approximate global population estimate is c. 65,000–70,000 mature individuals, which is very large and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criteria (C and D1). Therefore, the only potentially relevant criterion is A, which relates to reductions in population size. Until recently, the population was thought to be stable or declining slowly, but not sufficiently rapidly to approach the threshold for listing as Vulnerable under criterion A (at least a 30% decline over ten years or three generations, whichever is longer).
New data collated from across Europe for the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International 2015) indicate that the species has declined significantly in recent years, and that this decline is ongoing. Official data reported by 27 EU Member States to the European Commission under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive suggest that the European breeding population has declined overall by more than 30% over the last three generations (12.3 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 4.1 years), with a 31% decline in Spain (which holds >95% of the European population) during 1998–2011 alone. Consequently, the species is now classified as Vulnerable at European level (BirdLife International 2015).
No recent information is available about trends in NW Africa, where the species is described as uncommon to locally abundant, with densities reaching 2.6 birds/km² in Morocco; it is rare in NW Mauritania, scarce in Tunisia, but common at Jebel Nafusa in Libya (Collar 2005). If it is now declining overall at a similar rate as in Iberia, then it may qualify for uplisting to Near Threatened or even Vulnerable under criterion A.
To reassess its global status, information is sought about its current population status and recent trends in NW Africa, from Mauretania in the west to Libya in the east, along with any information about the threats affecting this species across its range.
BirdLife International (2015) European Red List of Birds. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/info/euroredlist
Collar, N. (2005). Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. www.hbw.com